1) You feel like you’re just going through the motions, existing but not really living.
I call this the “running on auto-pilot” feeling. You get up in the morning and go to work because you have to pay your bills. When someone asks how you are, your response is always “fine,” even when you’re not fine. You smile when you’re expected to and show people you’re enjoying yourself, but you’re really not. And the only thing you keep thinking is, “Is this what my life is supposed to be? Is there nothing more? Why do I feel so empty?
2) You feel incomplete or empty if you don’t have a partner.
When someone deplores the fact that they are single, it makes me wonder why they dislike their own company so much. While it’s enjoyable to have someone to share your joys and burdens with, there’s nothing another human being can do to fill whatever emptiness you feel. You need to determine why you feel this way, and then find ways to bring more purpose and meaning to your life. I truly believe that it is very difficult to truly be happy with someone until we can be happy with ourselves, on our own.
3) You’re not living according to your personal values.
When I throw one of my pity parties where I take stock of what’s wrong with my life and, most importantly, where I should be at this point in my life, I force myself to step back and say, “Is this what I really want, or is it because it’s expected of me?” Many of our beliefs and values are blindly adopted. My friend went through a temporary depressive state when someone guilt-tripped her into believing that she was being selfish for not having children.
“At your age,” her accuser began, “I already had grandchildren. And I was still young enough to enjoy my life.”
Personally, I think she was jealous that my friend still has her figure and travels regularly, but my friend really took what she said to heart…and started to spiral, questioning every decision she had made in her life. I was determined to put a stop to it.
“What’s so great about this woman’s life? And who is she to you? An acquaintance, at most. Ask yourself this: Are you feeling like this because you really want children, or because she made you believe that you’re worthless if you don’t have any? Can you picture yourself with kids?”
When she actually took the time to objectively analyze what she was feeling in light of her core values, my friend realized that deep down, she loved her life the way it was, and had no desire to change it.
4) You yearn for other people’s approval.
I have no issue per se with consulting other people’s opinion, but when your happiness and self-esteem revolve around what people think of you, that’s when it becomes a problem. So how do you know when it has become a problem for you? When you’re not confident about your decisions unless other people approve them. When you don’t trust your own opinion anymore. When your happiness soars with every compliment, but plummets with every insult. Essentially, when your sense of self is entangled in what others think of you, you trap yourself in an ugly, vicious cycle. When I say that the only opinion of you that matters is your own, I don’t mean that in a patronizing way. Ultimately, your life is your own to live. Wouldn’t you rather be the one to decide how it should be lived?
5) You’re holding on to regrets from the past or obsessively worrying about the future.
Although you should apologize for transgressions you have committed, at some point, you need to let go of old grudges, regrets, and mistakes. It’s always easy to look back and lament over what you could have done or should have done, but realize that at that point in time, whatever decision you made was the best decision you could have made given the circumstances. Guilt and regret won’t change the past, they’ll only keep you trapped in it, unable to move on.
As for the future, there is only so much you can do to plan for it. The rest of the time, you just have to wing it as best you can. So while some of those worries you have may come to fruition, most of them won’t. Don’t waste your time and mental energy on potentials. Life is created in the moment.